Cellular BioMechanics & BioMaterials
We explore the interaction between cells, their surrounding matrix, and biomaterials for the development of new muskuloskeletal treatment strategies. We design micro-environments that provide specific mechanical, geometrical, and biochemical signals to support and control endogenous healing cascades.
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Cell organisation and extracellular matrix formation in porous biomaterials
Biomaterials are used clinically to support tissue healing. However, the way tissue forms inside biomaterial pores is not fully understood. The process is often described as a layer-by-layer growth process where cells proliferate and fill the pore from the biomaterial wall to the pore center. However, traction forces generated by the cells strongly influence cell and extracellular matrix (ECM) organization, especially at early stages of tissue formation. We use macroporous collagen biomaterials and simplified 3D structures reproducing the biomaterial's pore architecture to investigate the role of cell forces and tissue contraction on extracellular matrix patterning. Our aim is to understand how a biomaterial's pore architecture can be used to achieve ECM patterns that structurally guide and thereby support tissue regeneration, e.g. in bone or cartilage defects.
Are mechanical or structural properties of the extracellular matrix altered by growth factors?
In contrast to an advanced understanding how Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMPs) influence cell behaviour, little is known about their effect on extracellular matrix formation in early stages of tissue regeneration. Using macroporous biomaterials as 3D environments, we investigate the process how primary cells build extracellular matrix in the presence or absence of BMP2. We are specifically interested in BMP2-induced alterations of biochemical and mechanical matrix properties. With this, we aim at a better understanding of alternative ways how BMPs influence bone tissue regeneration next to the chemo-attraction and differentiation of stem cells.